shepard fairey, the copenhagen assault and his merry band of trigger-happy bloggers

a number of people, including associates and friends of shepard fairey, have been writing about the assault on the artist that took place in copenhagen last week. boing boing also covered it.

shepard fairey claims that he was singled out for punishment because of a lie spread by danish media.

the facts seem dubious.

my hunch is that shepard fairey is attempting to spin what was most likely a mundane late night fracas into a media-friendly story of how a forward-thinking artist is being denied his right to free expression in a hostile culture while performing a charitable and unsolicited service for the greater good of the community.

but the facts just don’t add up.

both shepard fairey’s story on his site and the summaries on sean bonner’s blog as well as boing boing leave out a few important details.

to suggest that someone in the danish media is spreading misconceptions about shepard’s work in copenhagen is, in terms of facts, true, but the danish media can hardly be represented in its entirety by the actual source: an english-language only weekly newspaper marketed to the british/american ex-pat community that has a circulation of about 10,000 readers. at best, 10,000 readers, who, for the most part, are not danish. i’m talking about the copenhagen post, the “danish media” in question which ran an article critical of shepard’s work in relation to jagtvej 69 (the youth house that is more commonly known as ungdomshuset).

i used to write film reviews for that paper for a brief period during my ten years of living in copenhagen. the copenhagen post is not known as a serious newspaper. it routinely uses a sarcastic tone for its headlines and has an editorial style that borders on juvenile, intentionally so. it’s light reading. and it’s a weekly. comes out every wednesday. definitely not widely read nor frequently cited in other danish media. therefore, i conclude that regardless of what the paper wrote, very few people paid attention to it and the story did not gain any traction within the copenhagen youth populace. it had nothing to do with the assault on mr. fairey.

i think that the reason why shepard was jumped had more to do with the popular perception that an american “hipster” has nothing of value to offer on what is primarily a copenhagen issue (and not necessarily a danish issue). why should an american use a copenhagen wall to express his opinions? and why him? and why that wall in particular? that just seems arrogant. granted, shepard claims that he’s a global citizen and therefore deserves a voice in the global community, but again, i beg to differ. he’s about as global as mcdonalds or starbucks but that doesn’t mean that he understands local politics. he’s an american who is known around the world, but that hardly makes him a global citizen.

that shephard conducted his business with the help of the copenhagen city government, which is true, probably did more damage to his credibility because it illustrated that both he and his partners at Galleri V1 failed to appreciate the anger that the residents of nørrebro have towards the local government for its involvement in the destruction of jagtvej 69. that’s the real sentiment behind why he got jumped, and not the rantings of the copenhagen post, which so few people read – and is certainly not read by the vast majority of danes living in copenhagen.

the story of jagtvej 69 is the story of an unpopular betrayal – that the local government went back on a promise made to the city’s rambunctious disenfranchised youth. that’s why there was rioting when the building was raided by the police, then sold, then torn down. protesters were beat-up during the confrontations, there were acts of police brutality, and charges of racism were brought against the police, among other things. the case is not yet over – so it’s still fresh on the minds of many copenhageners.

finally, i’m not even sure that shepard was beaten up because of the mural. he was hanging out in the early morning hours outside of a popular hipster club in the meatpacking district, which is located far away from jagtvej 69 (kødbyen is now a hipster part of town that once was a working class neighborhood with an actual meat market). i suspect that there’s a chance that he was beaten up for other reasons. acting like an obnoxious douchebag, with an entourage in tow, possibly making disparaging comments about local yokels?

i’m not justifying the fact that he received a black eye. i think that’s terrible and an embarrassment to people in copenhagen. nobody should get beat up… but my gut feeling is that shepard is pointing the blame at a relatively obscure newspaper, then using his american friends such as sean bonner and xeni jardin to rally around his cause, rather than accepting his role in stirring up strong emotions in copenhagen. that’s the real embarrassment. so be it.

it’s cool. keep trying, shepard. i still love your hope poster.

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